Friday, January 24, 2014

Planting Trees and Bushes

This time of the year is excellent for planting and transplanting trees and bushes because they are dormant.  They will have a chance to settle into their new environment and grow into the hot summer without too much of a shock.  The larger and more expensive trees and bushes in nurseries and garden centers may be balled and burlapped (B&B) which makes it easier for transportation.

A tree with burlap around its roots fastened with rope or wire will hold the roots in place and protect it during shipping.  It is however necessary to remove synthetic and plastic burlap along with strings, ropes, and wires because they do not decompose in the soil.  Furthermore, if left around the root ball or only loosened, it will hinder the spread and growth of the roots.  The wire may decompose in 20 years.

There are usually smaller trees and roses in particular that are often shipped bare rooted which means that there is absolutely no soil covering the roots.  The trees and roses are usually in a dormant stage.  As soon as the shipment arrives, it is recommended that the roots be soaked in water before immediate planting.

When planting these trees, a hole is dug, and soil and mulch are mixed to provide an ideal growth medium.  The hole, of course, should be large and deep enough to cover the tree roots but the graft of the tree should remain above ground.  Water is the key in planting bare root trees and bushes.  If there is no rain, water every day for a week, taper off, and keep watering when necessary.  I usually add fertilizer after the plants have established themselves.

My preference is to acquire a tree or a bush packed in a container.  When buying such a plant, I check to see if the plant is root bound.  This is easily detected when roots are sticking out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.  I also check for roots growing in circles on the top of the container and spilling over the rim.

It is not necessary to plant the tree grown in a container as soon as you get it home.  It will survive  for an extended time given food, water, and set in a somewhat sunny and protected place.  A container grown tree or bush may be planted any time of the year.

When planting, dig a hole larger than the plant root, mix soil with compost, and set the plant with the graft above ground (if the plant does have a graft).  I have found that the late winter in NE Florida is the best time to plant and/or transplant trees and bushes. 

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